What Ifs… Volume One

‘What Ifs…’ are always fun to explore, but in many ways, it can be quite sad.

Injuries, suspensions and even car accidents have robbed fans, let alone the wrestlers, themselves, of success. In many cases, it has cost careers.

So, what could you see from the following performers had things gone a little differently?



Was he really anointed as the performer to take the torch from Ric Flair?

In 1986, it may have been a little premature given Flair’s performances over the next couple of years, but Magnum certainly was positioned well, coming off a great Best of Seven series against Nikita Koloff for the US Title.

Magnum’s car accident was so brutal that his C4 and C5 vertebrae were described as “exploding” with the impact. Though it was doubted that he would ever walk again, he made a return appearance at the 1987 Crockett Cup, where he gingerly made his way to ringside with the assistance of a couple of referees and a cane.

It became apparent pretty quickly that Magnum was done as a wrestler. His injuries were just too significant to overcome and his was a retirement that became a wrestling anomaly – it lasted.

How high could he have climbed?

At least one world title run seemed a given, but an ongoing series with Flair may have opened the door for him to become a multiple-time champion.

Some have speculated that his health may have been a way for the NWA and WCW to combat the ever-expanding influence of the WWF, but I am not sure, with the benefit of hindsight, that Magnum had THAT much talent and charisma to hold back what was more like a tsunami than a trickling stream of momentum. Still, it would have given Crockett, the NWA, and possibly WCW another weapon to use against Vince, and in a war that raged back and forth, sometimes even the smallest influence could have bene enough to tp the scales.



Anyone who knows wrestling knows the Von Erich family history. Tragedy haunted the family, with patron of the family, Fritz, outliving five of his six sons.

After his world title win in 1984, the world seemed to be 24-year-old Kerry’s oyster. Of the Von Erich clan, it appeared as though Kerry hit the genetic jackpot. Built like a brick outhouse, Kerry had the look others would have killed for at that period, but a motorcycle accident and some not-too-bright decision-making from Kerry in the aftermath saw Von Erich do further damage to his foot, leaving the doctor with no choice but to amputate it.

Everyone has heard the story of Kerry having his boot come off in a match against Colonel de Beers. It revealed that Kerry had just a stump where his foot used to be.

This was confirmed posthumously by Roddy Piper, who wrote in his biography that Von Erich felt comfortable enough to remove the prosthetic when they were hanging out together.

Von Erich meandered through his wrestling life after the accident. Less mobile and in constant pain, he became hooked on prescription painkillers and took his own life in 1993. He was just 33 years old

Are we thinking that Kerry could have been a multiple-time world champion if not for the accident? It’s difficult to see how he wouldn’t have, but even before the accident, the NWA were not overly enthused with Kerry’s inability to make dates as the champion, flying Ric Flair into Japan to win the title back from Kerry after a no-show earlier in the tour.

The Von Erich name was huge in Texas and Fritz was still running World Class Championship Wrestling. With Kerry on top and healthy, it would seem as though another world title run either in the NWA or eventually in the WWF would have been a formality. Of course, Kerry’s penchant for dabbling in illegal substances may have prevented him from ever climbing to the top again.

The weight of expectation can be heavy. The weight of carrying a family’s legacy even heavier. With an accident that would stop most people from walking again, things became too heavy for Kerry.



There was no better heel in wrestling throughout 1992-93 than Ravishing Rick Rude – he was one of the few in that period who took what he was doing in the WWF and elevated it with his WCW tenure. Enhancing his CV with excellent matches in WCW, Rude was close to the next in line in terms of world title runs.

He had beaten Ric Flair for the ‘Big Gold’ at a point where it was not really being recognised as a world title (long story) but given his place in the WCW pecking order at the time, Rude was probably just a quick scribble of the pencil away from wearing the world title.

An excellent talker, a great drawer of legitimate heat, and possessing a character that was both easy to dislike and admire, his matches against Ricky Steamboat and Sting, combined with a 14-month US Title reign of terror were the perfect set-up for an eventual world title run.

Could 1994 have been his year had he not cracked his back on the edge of the elevated ring platform in Japan? With Vader, Sting and Flair all getting runs prior to the arrival of Hulk Hogan, Rude may have been able to sneak one in before becoming another opponent to fall to Hogan.

At the time of his death, it was rumoured that he was in training to make an in-ring comeback, but it would be hard to see Rude leapfrogging into contention in 1999 at age 40, with Steve Austin, Rock, Kurt Angle and Undertaker dominating main event slots in the WWE, and Hogan, Goldberg, and even Bret Hart on top in WCW…

… although given the way the WCW was being treated at the time, a reign was by no means out of the question.



When you think of Mr Perfect in the WWF, you could be forgiven for picturing him in a suit as often as you could his fluorescent tights.

Hennig started so brilliantly, and his series of matches with Bret Hart in 1989 still hold up today, with many just as good, if not better than their 1991 Summerslam encounter that seems to make its way onto a lot of people’s “best matches I’ve seen” list. Selling like a maniac and making things look simple in the process, Hennig’s exaggerated bumps were quickly noticed by Hulk Hogan and though he would go onto win the Intercontinental Title, I get the feeling that the series against Hogan was a little too rushed.

We kept hearing about Perfect being “undefeated” on TV, but as soon as he started tangling with The Hulkster, that was always going to be a short-lived boast.

How Hennig injured his back is a matter of some conjecture, though it wouldn’t be too far from the truth to state that there was alcohol involved. He managed to cash in on a nice Lloyd’s of London insurance policy, but in doing so was prevented from wrestling at all until a certain period of time.

By the time he re-emerged in WCW, his days of being a top guy were gone.

Could he have been WWF World Champion prior to his back injury?

Having held the IC title twice, and being a former AWA World Champion, it is not too much of a stretch to see him working main event programs with Flair, Hart, Michaels or even Kevin Nash as he performed as Diesel. Given all those guys reigned as champion, it is not unreasonable to think that Mr Perfect could have had a run or two at the top.



Brian Pillman could have been anything, but the car accident that ended up ruining his ankle not only put the brakes on his career, but steered it in an entirely different direction.

Pillman was heavily restricted by his injury, which really derailed his ‘Loose Cannon’ persona that he’d developed over the previous year.

At a time when the WWF and WCW were thinking about edgier content, Pillman was ahead of the game – he unexpectedly grabbed Bobby Heenan by the collar during the Clash of Champions 32 show, prompting usually-unflappable Brain to blurt “what the fuck are you doing?” on live TV. He then went on to call Kevin Sullivan “Booker Man” at Superbrawl VI in a move that sent the smart fans into a tizz.

The character had enormous potential, and after convincing Eric Bischoff to fire him so he could enhance the gimmick in ECW, Pillman pulled a fast one and signed with the WWF after his stay in Philadelphia.

Pillman joined the Hart Foundation but was limited in his output. It was sad to see such a gifted performer hobbled so badly and forced into a secondary role.

He passed away at the age of 35, without really ever realising his enormous potential. Would things have been different had it not been for that accident?

Probably, but Pillman’s death was caused by lesions developing on his arteries, which led to cardiac arrest. It was undiagnosed at the time and was the same cause of his father’s death. Pillman most likely would have passed away at an early age irrespective of the accident, but it did send his career in another direction when it appeared as though he was destined for greatness.



The Four Horsemen reunion in WCW was ruined when Tully Blanchard failed a drug test in the waning days of his WWF run.

Already on his way back to WCW to team with his old mate, Arn Anderson, Blanchard found himself in no man’s land, no longer able to work in the WWF, and having his contract offer pulled by WCW, who were not looking to take on a wrestler with baggage.

Blanchard mentioned on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk is Jericho, that he is probably the only wrestler to ever fail a drug test and actually be blackballed as a result.

And the results were not great for Anderson, either, who went back to Atlanta and had a heavily reduced contract offered to him, being told that he was worth less as a singles guy than he was with Tully.


This had a huge impact on the reformation of the Four Horseman. Instead of Flair, Arn and Tully as the nucleus, WCW offered up Paul Roma, which basically meant that the group was dead in the water as soon as Roma was announced. In a nutshell, no one was buying Roma as Horsemen material no matter how hard WCW sold it.

So, where could Blanchard have gone had he not failed the piss test prior to his WWF departure?

The WCW tag team division seemed to be the logical destination, with the recent defection of the Steiner Brothers to the WWF. A Tully/Arn v Hollywood Blondes series would have been incredible, however the possibility of a long-awaited Flair v Blanchard clash would have had wrestling diehards salivating.

Is a world title reign for Tully out of the question? Yeah, at this stage, I reckon it is. Vader was a monster at this stage and with Sting and Rick Rude both in very prominent spots in the company, I couldn’t see management reverting to another old-school heel as the main man.

That said, with Tully and Arn reforming, they may have gone a fair way to strengthening the claims of many that they are the best tag team the business has seen.



This is a big one.

What if Shawn had not hit his back on the casket as he went careening from the ring against the Undertaker at The Royal Rumble in 1998?

Known for his abrasive attitude and poor backstage behaviour at the time, Michaels may not have been in the mood to do the right thing for Steve Austin at Wrestlemania. Although all signs pointed to Austin climbing the mountain inevitably, Michaels may have presented a bit of an obstacle.

People forget that Michaels, perceived now as a company man by many, was not an overly happy chappy at points of his WWF tenure. A tumble down the card as the fed started to invest in the Austin/Foley/Rock trifecta may have caused more than a little angst with the Heartbreak Kid. Would he have happily shared that spotlight with others? Would he have graciously moved aside and allowed someone else to have the spotlight centred directly on them?

Knowing what you know of Shawn at the time, it seems a bit rich to think so.

The matches would have been glorious – bouts against Austin and Rock in particular would have been off-the-charts, but there is part of me that just cannot see HBK moving aside and allowing himself to fall down the pecking order, even just slightly.

Of course, we then factor in his… err… “issues” at the time that saw him attend WWF events under the influence and it’s not hard to imagine him asking for, and being granted his release from the company.

Which would have led to him hitting WCW at some point in 1998.

This opens up a can of worms. With Hall and Nash entrenched and Bret Hart there as well, the WCW locker room would have been combustible.

As for matches, HBK v Sting, v Raven, v Eddie, v Benoit and v Hogan would have been great. However, the big ticket here could have been the Michaels-Hart rematch, happening on WCW soil. Could that have been the thing to stave off the WWF charge?

If Michaels stayed healthy in 1998, chances are he goes along his not-so-merry way, wanting to remain at the top of the card wherever he landed. Would Vince have given him a release given he knew what it meant? Or would he appease his petulant star, knowing that it may be costing him in terms of the development and success of Rock, Austin and probably Triple H?

Michaels has long been divisive and with a clean bill of health in 1998, things could have been much worse… yet still so, so good.


There are others I’d like to see covered – Edge is a really good one, as is Kurt Angle. Where they end up and how a clean bill of health would have impacted their place in wrestling folklore is something I’ll leave to someone with a better knowledge of the modern product.

If you have that knowledge and wish to chime in, by all means, do so.